Thursday, October 23, 2008

One man’s family

In 1875, Nathan S. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents had come to this country on ships from Germany. In 1878, Rose A. was also born in Philadelphia. Both of her parents had come to this country on ships from England. In 1898, Nathan and Rose married, and between 1899 and 1910 they had five children, Marion, Solomon (who was called Sol), Rachael (who died in infancy), Jacob (who was called Jack), and Ruth. I was born to Ruth in 1941, her only child and the youngest of a total of five first cousins. My biological father was not in the picture. When I was five, a different man married my mother, and my birth certificate was amended by the state to add his name where there had been a blank place. I believe he adopted me legally, but I don’t really know that for certain. There is no document that I am aware of. When I was six, the three of us moved to Texas.

Mama didn’t come from a warm, fuzzy family. Everyone pretty much kept to himself or herself. Geographically, we were far flung. My two uncles and my aunt died during the eighties. My cousin Philip married Virginia and moved to Illinois, had three children, divorced Virginia, moved to Colorado, and married Donna. Joan married Herman and moved to California. Eileen married Bud and moved to Connecticut. Jack Jr. married Sylvia, had twin girls, divorced Sylvia, and moved to Florida. Today I have no idea what became of any of them or even whether they are still alive. In 1963, I married Mrs. Rhymeswithplague in Florida. Her family was small like mine. Besides her mom and dad, she had one brother, one sister-in-law, one niece, one nephew, one aunt, one uncle, and three cousins.

We moved to Nebraska and had a child, moved to New York and had two more children, moved back to Florida for several years, then moved to Georgia in 1975. We have been here ever since. Our little immediate clan of five has grown to fourteen, having added a son-in-law, two daughters-in-law, and six beautiful grandchildren. Long may we wave.

But I want to tell you about another family.

Russ W. was born in a small town in central Texas in 1894. In August 1912, when he was fifteen, he married Pearl C., who was eighteen. They didn’t have to get married; they wanted to. About every two years for the next twenty years, they had a child. There was Cleo (1913), Mildred (1915), J.D. (1917), Margaret (1919), Russ Jr. (1921), Marvin (1924), Billy (1927), Faye (1929), Kenneth (who died in infancy, 1931), Freddie (1932), and Sue (1934). For a while Russ farmed and all the children who who were big enough helped him. Later he moved to the big city and became a bellman at the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas. After Pearl died in 1951, he married Virginia who operated the hotel’s switchboard.

My mother died in 1957. A few months later, Dad, who worked at an aircraft factory in Fort Worth, met Mildred through Fritz, a co-worker who happened to be married to Margaret. Mildred’s husband Clarence had died the year before from a sudden heart attack. In June 1958, when I was seventeen, Dad and Mildred married. Suddenly I had three brothers and a sister. I went from being an only child to being the middle one of five children. There were also twenty or so first cousins living nearby because eight of Mildred’s nine brothers and sisters lived in Dallas County. Only one adventurous sibling had moved away to Houston. Every weekend there were lots of relatives around. If I had been in a shell, I came out of it really fast. Today Russ’s and Pearl’s descendants must number sixty or seventy. There were some interesting stories in there. Freddie married Martha; Sue married Jack; Martha and Jack were sister and brother, so the children of both marriages are what is called “double first cousins,” meaning that the two sets of cousins don’t share one set of grandparents, they share both sets of grandparents. Junior’s wife, Dorothy, is the aunt of Billy’s wife, LaWanda. So when Dorothy speaks about “Jewel and John” she is speaking of her sister and brother-in-law, but when LaWanda says “Mother and Daddy” she also means Jewel and John. Dorothy is not only the aunt of LaWanda’s children because Junior and Billy are brothers, but she is also the great-aunt of LaWanda’s children because LaWanda is Jewel’s and John’s daughter. It gets a bit confusing at times. Sometimes you can’t tell the players without a program.

Of the ten original siblings, only Junior, Freddie, and Faye are still living. We don’t get to see one another very often these days. My younger stepbrother and stepsister are both gone now, but my two older stepbrothers are still around. One is in Texas and one is in Arkansas.

I have been blessed. I was born into a family. I gained another family through my Dad’s marriage to Mildred. I gained still another family, an Albanian one, when I married my wife. And together my wife and I were able to have a family of our own.

God is good all the time.


  1. Not exactly your normal every day family but interesting . Glad that through it all you could still see that " God is good all the time".

  2. We all need family, don't we? I'm glad to read more about yours.

    And somehow, in all that I've read of your family, I never realized that I share your mother's name. But then again, I don't suppose I've ever told you that I have a brother named Robert.

  3. Wow! I think you just might be there with me on all the craziness of family stuff. My head is still spinning trying to sort out who, where, and what.

    You are truly blessed you were given more family than most people ever see.

  4. What a family! May blessings be upon all of them, wherever they may be.

    I thought I had a lot of first cousins (Mama was one of 9 children, Daddy one of 4), but I think you've outdone me.

    Yes, God is good all the time.

  5. Thanks, everybody, for reading my blog and for commenting.

    dr.john, thanks also for making my blog "today's link" on your blog! My readership grows one reader at a time. I see in your profile that Wisconsin is where you are. My dad was born in Tomah and grew up in LaCrosse, but when he was a teenager his family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    Ruth, yes, family is crucial. Learning to forgive and be forgiven within a family is also crucial, I think. Ruth an Robert used to be such common names, but you don't find them much any more. It's all Heathers and Dequailiuses and Madisons and such.

    egghead (Vonda) and Pat (an Arkansas stamper), thanks to both of you for your kind thoughts. Since you are from big families too, you must also know both the pain and the pleasure to be found therein!

  6. Bob,
    Off topic question. Yesterday on Jesus Creed, I posted a comment under the "Fundamentalism and Evolution" thread that was deleted, and I try to keep a copy of comments that I leave in places. Do you subscribe to the email updates for the thread and if so, could you email me my comment to gymbrall_AT_gmail_DOT_com. The name on the comment would be Charles Churchill.

    Thanks much,

  7. gymbrall, glad to make your acquaintance. I cannot help you, sorry. I don't subscribe to any of the email updates at JesusCreed. When I said Scot had sent me an email, it was a privately sent email, not part of the blog threads.

    I hope someone locates your comment for you. If you think a comment might not make it all the way to a moderated blog and you want to keep it, highlight and copy what you wrote (*before* clicking on that final SEND or PUBLISH or whatever it is, of course) and paste it into a new Word document of your own. That's my recommendation.

  8. thanks for your spiel on women ...of course i agree that all women need to be changed to meet the requirements of perfect men, but i would never dare to be the one to try...go to my comments once again...i've modified some and made some comments on my own blog i would like you to read

  9. Bob,
    Thanks for the response. I usually do that, but I forgot and had to leave to make an appointment. When I got back, it was gone.

    God bless,